By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Timing was everything.
Clinton couldn’t have picked a worse time for an offensive foul. Matthew Moran’s timing couldn’t have been any better for his team.
Moran scored on a putback with three-tenths of a second remaining Tuesday to give Davenport Central a 63-61 boys basketball victory against Clinton in WJ Yourd Gymnasium. The winning basket came seconds after an offensive foul call denied the River Kings a chance to take the final shot with the game tied.
“I was in the right spot at the right time, I guess,” said Moran, a 6-foot-3 junior center.
“You go into scramble mode and try to stick a body on somebody,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “Unfortunately, we came out on the short end of it.”
The Blue Devils had pulled even at 61 with 42.7 seconds remaining when Trey Hollingshed drove the right side — he had just scored a three-point play on a similar drive — and dumped the ball to a wide-open Tim Rummels on the right baseline. Rummels was fouled but missed the free throw, leaving the game knotted.
The River Kings came down with the plan of taking the final shot and either winning or going to overtime, but that plan fell through when they were called for an illegal screen at the top of the key. That gave the ball back to Central with 14.5 seconds left.
“You could replay that 100 times and maybe see it called once,” Lawrence said. “We thought it was a legitimate screen.”
After a timeout, the Blue Devils again had Hollingshed work the right side, but this time he couldn’t find an opening against the Clinton defense. With time running out, he was forced to toss up a 3-point attempt over Jalen Jones with 3.5 seconds left. It missed, but most of the Clinton players had moved toward Hollingshed, leaving Rummels open for a rebound on the right block. He missed his attempt, but Moran was alone on the weakside for a putback that went through the net as time expired.
“Timmy kept the ball alive, and I was right there to put it back,” said Moran, who finished with 14 points, well above his average of 2.4 a game. “We just knew we had to crash.”
They certainly crashed the party for the dejected River Kings and their fans, who watched stunned as Central celebrated.
“They stepped up and made some plays down the stretch and forced us into some big turnovers,” Lawrence said.
That was especially true in one key run.
Clinton had just run off six consecutive points on baskets by Jon Cady and Derrick Howard (13 points) around a pair of free throws by Brady Ernst (17).
Lawrence decided to give Jones a break, but in the minute he was resting on the bench, the Blue Devils reeled off nine straight points to pull within 46-44 with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
Tyler Hoeksema buried a 3-pointer from the left wing on an inbounds play, Zach Smith (10 points) followed with another from the top of the key and Rummels finished with a three-point play when Hollingshed stole the ball and dished to him in the lane.
Jones returned and passed off to Howard for a fastbreak layup and free throw that put the lead back to five, but Central continued to cause problems with its pressing defense.
“We played great defense,” Moran said. “Our defense definitely led to the win.”
Not only did the pressure force Clinton turnovers, but it also got the River Kings out of their rhythm.
“When they initially started to press us full-court, it took us a few plays to settle,” Lawrence said. “The press did what they wanted it to do and got us to play too fast.”
Jones led the River Kings with 19 points, while Hollingshed led the Blue Devils with 16.
The River Kings head to Davenport on Friday to try to change their fortunes in a girls-boys doubleheader at Davenport Assumption.